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Original Issue


When I received my copy of your Dec. 28-Jan. 4 issue and saw that you hadn't selected John McEnroe as Sportsman of the Year, I was initially dismayed. I intended to write a letter of protest, but after reading the superb article (One Life Fulfilled) by Frank Deford and thinking about what the word "sportsman" means, I changed my mind.

Sugar Ray Leonard has earned an unimaginable amount of money as a boxer, and he could probably make even more if he retired now and concentrated on selling his name in the manner of Bruce Jenner and many others. The fact that he continues to fight indicates to me that in spite of all the phony hoopla surrounding pro sports today, Sugar Ray fights on because he loves the sport of boxing for itself. That makes him Sportsman of the Year in my book. Three cheers for Sugar Ray, Frank Deford and SI.
Eugene, Ore.

I was very disappointed to see Sugar Ray Leonard picked as Sportsman of the Year. You have honored a man who makes his living by beating other human beings into submission for huge sums of money. Where is the real sportsmanship in boxing? I must admit that Leonard is as fine a man as you can find. I only wish he had attained his success in another sport.
Thibodaux, La.

Sugar Ray is a commendable selection, although there is some question as to whether he is any more deserving than Alexis Arguello or Marvin Hagler. Nonetheless, your fine boxing coverage over the past year has been deeply appreciated by those of us who are bored with baseball strikes and burned out on football.

I commend you on your choice. As a resident of Maryland, Sugar Ray Leonard's home state, I have witnessed not only his expertise in the ring but also his patience with youths. Leonard has won well-deserved devotion and praise.
Hillcrest Heights, Md.

" the majority of black children in America, Little Ray was born out of wedlock." I find it very difficult to believe that more than half of the black children in this country fall into that category. Can Frank Deford substantiate this statistic, or did he simply misuse the word "majority"? Either way, the statement wasn't germane to an otherwise excellent article.
Athol, Mass.

•According to a National Center for Health Statistics estimate, 55% of all black births in 1979, the most recent year for which records have been compiled, were out of wedlock, with the figure for illegitimate children born to black teen-age mothers 15 to 19 years old at 85.1%. By comparison, 37.6% of all black children were born outside of marriage in 1970. In the '70s white illegitimate births rose from 5.7% in 1970 to 9.4% in 1979—and to 30.3% among 15- to 19-year-olds. In the years since Little Ray Leonard was born—that is, from 1973 through 1979—50.3% of all black babies were born out of wedlock, with the annual percentages ranging from 45.8% in 1973 to 50.3% in 1976 to 1979's high of 55%. However, the rate of illegitimate births among blacks has decreased from 95.5 births per 1,000 unmarried women aged 15 to 44 in 1970 to 85.3 per 1,000 in 1979, while the rate for whites has increased from 13.9 per 1,000 in 1970 to 15.1 per 1,000 in 1979. These national estimates by the NCHS are based on records obtained from 39 states and the District of Columbia. Until 1980, for which the figures are not yet in, the missing 11 states didn't require that a mother's marital status be included on a birth certificate. However, the NCHS has used the statistics in neighboring states to help derive figures for the missing ones, and a spokesman says that if some numbers are off a little, "the trends the figures show from year to year reflect the real changes very accurately."

George Plimpton has written another wonderfully entertaining article for the readers of SI {Birds Thou Never Wert, Dec. 28-Jan. 4). In keeping with Victor Emanuel's suggestion, I think the full name of the giant cacophonous should be Watt's common giant cacophonous cowbird.

Also, although I found the article enjoyable, it is hard for me to take seriously the writings of one who calls himself Hadada Ibis.
Las Cruces, N. Mex.

As George Plimpton points out, there is a real bird, the shrike-vireo, that goes, "Peter, peter, peter, peter, peter, peter, peter, peter." This is already one damn peter-peter-peter bird too many. The common giant cacophonous cowbird ought to go, "George, george, george, george, george, george, george, george," possibly sounding something like a demented Liberace.
Wilson, N.C.

I received my usual Christmas gift of another yearly subscription to SI, an automatic stocking stuffer to keep the old man busy on Thursday evenings! However, the hole in my stocking was enlarged considerably by the weight of The Audubon Society Review contained under the cover of your Dec. 28-Jan. 4 issue. Really, did you have to devote 29 columns of words and graphics to the art of bird watching with Super Bowl Sunday then only 4½ weeks away?
Raynham, Mass.

Being a Viking fan, I've had a chance to follow the brilliant career of Alan Page, and now that he is retiring, I am delighted that SI has taken time to review his accomplishments (A Page Out of NFL History, Dec. 28-Jan. 4). He is ending his career with class, the same class he displayed throughout his 15 years in the NFL. When the Vikings let him go in 1978, they lost more than a defensive tackle; they lost Page's style, spirit and leadership. While Page was a Viking, the team went to four Super Bowls and rarely missed the playoffs. Since his departure, Minnesota has twice dipped below .500 and has missed the playoffs in two of the past three years. E.M. Swift was right when he said that football is going to miss this man.
Butterfield, Minn.

Reading the article on the retirement of Alan Page saddened me for several reasons. Sure, football is just entertainment, and its importance probably is "blown far out of proportion to what it really is." But Page is (was) an idol for a lot of youngsters-and a lot of adults, too. What gives him the right to refer to a sport that some of us live and die with as "the toy department"?

I, for one, grew up with Page, and I have always admired him for his ability. Therefore, I would like to be able to say that I will miss him. But if his statement reveals the true Alan Page, I say good riddance!
Baytown, Texas

Though there are some flaws in Jim Kaplan's VIEWPOINT (Dec. 14) in regard to the designated hitter rule in the American League, I agree with his suggestion that the DH should be discarded. Its only redeeming feature is that it enables American League teams to keep some of the best hitters around a year or two longer.

The most important thing to keep in mind when considering the DH is that the rules should be exactly the same in both leagues. Either the American League should discard the DH or the National League should adopt it. It's a farce the way things stand now.
Huntington Station, N.Y.

Jim Kaplan's VIEWPOINT is way off base. The use of a DH has tremendous advantages. It can extend a good hitter's career; it provides the offensive excitement the fans want to see; and it allows a pitcher to concentrate on what's really important, pitching.

But the most significant point in favor of the DH rule is the fact that just about everyone at every level of play uses it. It allows coaches to utilize as many players as possible, which is important to kids who are learning the game. Also, fewer parents complain. Seeing as the National is the only league in America that doesn't have the DH rule, wouldn't it be wiser to simply have it adopt the DH, rather than have the American League drop it? The latter would appear to me to be a step backward.
USAF Academy, Colo.

Jim Kaplan is right. The DH rule is awful. Just think about it. Whom would you rather see hit, Britt Burns or Greg Luzinski? I hate home runs. Tommy John or Reggie Jackson? I can't stand it when the fans get excited. Jon Matlack or Al Oliver? RBIs are dumb! It's time we saw a real confrontation in the American League again. Picture this: Ron Guidry, the pitcher, vs. Mike Torrez, the batter. A showstopper, literally. One, two, three—you're out, Kaplan.

I agree with Jim Kaplan's idea of dumping the DH in the American League. However, I think his assessment of the Los Angeles Dodgers as the third-or fourth-best team in the National League is highly unjustified.

After earning a playoff spot with a great start, the Dodgers had to play the second half of the season with no further incentive, thanks to the baseball strike. Although they had no momentum going into the playoffs, they nonetheless won each series in gutsy, come-from-behind fashion.
Palos Verdes, Calif.

Letters should include the name, address and home telephone number of the writer and be addressed to The Editor, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, Time & Life Building, Rockefeller Center, New York, N.Y. 10020.